Can you tell us a little bit about your chess responsibilities?
I have been President of the Maltese Chess Federation for the last nine years. I am also the General Secretary of the Small Nations Chess Association and of the Mediterranean Chess Association since 2002. Within FIDE I have been entrusted with the role of FIDE Commercial Director following my resignation as FIDE Vice President in 2007 to take up the CEO position within Global Chess, which I hold to this day.
During the last eight years I have been active in the organization of the FIDE Grand Prix series for Men and Women, FIDE World Blitz Championships and assisting the FIDE inspection teams for World Youth 2007, World Cup 2007 and Dresden Olympiad 2008. Together with the main respective organizing federation, I have also co-ordinated the first European Small Nations Team Tournament in Andorra last year and seven Mediterranean Men & Women Championships (in Lebanon, France, Tunisia, Croatia and three in Turkey), as well as three Junior Championships. This year we revived the Mediterranean Junior in Crete thanks to Sakis Kouvatsos and we are holding this in the first week of September with 72 players.
Can you tell us why you are part of Ali Nihat Yazici’s team and your role within the team?
Ali and I go back now nine years and together we have worked so hard on all the projects we have undertaken. It started in 2002 when we first met in Bled during our Zonal meeting. We agreed to form the Mediterranean Chess Association at that time and after that we met again in several tournaments where I helped Ali on media coverage. The most notable being the World Championship in Libya in 2004.
I cannot recall how many times I have been in Turkey since then, but I have been lucky to witness first -hand the growth of the Turkish Chess Federation. Today, Ali and I know each other’s character extremely well; we are passionate in our desire to develop a better European Chess organization and we will give our 200% to achieve what we are promising. I also respect Ali Nihat as a dynamic character, who not only has the ambition to change Europe dramatically, but today has the experience and results to prove that it can be done.
The rest of the team is also fantastic and we have a great spirit and friendship amongst everybody. Our slogan encapsulates the respect and responsibilities we have selected to shoulder “WE R EUROPE”. The WE is of great importance as we believe that we reflect the cultural and political values of all European Federations within our team and our doors are always open to anybody who wishes to work for the benefit of chess.
My role will be that of General Secretary and this will encompass regular and timely communication with the federations. It will mean working with all the federations to establish their goals and objectives, assisting them, and generally sharing in the positive journey we will undertake together.
What do you think are the priorities for European Chess ?
A lot has been achieved these last few years but a great deal needs to be done, and very soon. We cannot afford to stand still for another four years. Europe deserves a team which will give results.
I have been fortunate to have travelled and met a large number of European federations both before and during this election campaign. Whilst we need to sit down and work out individual strategic plans with each federation, there are general areas which require serious attention :
Firstly, Chess in Schools has not been given the impetus it deserves, so unless we all focus on this and start to get a bigger player base and audience, we risk remaining a minority sport. If the base of people understanding and following chess grows substantially, we have the basis for a serious business model. I am very proud to point out, in both chess and non-chess sectors, the excellent developments made by Turkey in the last six years. Is this success exceptional to Turkey? I don’t believe so and with hard work by the federations, faith in their abilities and support by an experienced ECU team we will succeed.
Secondly, substantial marketing sponsorship has to be found to put in place all the critical development programmes that Europe needs. Sponsorship based on a business model, not Government backed sponsorships. Whilst Governments or Regional Municipalities may be fine to organize single events for tourism purposes, we need sponsorship on a Pan-European platform for our Chess in Schools, Academies, and Development programmes.
Thirdly, strengthening the federations. Many federations I have visited are managed by people who love chess and who sacrifice their time and family to organize events for their members. Many of them have to cope with finding venues for national tournaments, then running them, organizing equipment and preparing travel budgets to participate in international events, so, unfortunately, development ranks low on the to-do list. We will support these federations financially, but we will also develop strategic plans and targets with them for titles for Arbiters, Organizers, Trainers and Players.
What can you say about your team?
We have blended all the elements required for a strong team to succeed in developing European chess to the level it deserves. We have the smallest and largest nations represented, as well as professional and amateur chess players. We have experienced Federation Presidents as well as Arbiters, Trainers and Organizers assisting our team.
Let me explain that our team is not solely the five candidates who are running together as a ticket, but all the federations and members in these organizations who support our vision and will work together to help achieve the objectives. Many prefer to remain in the background at this point but their help is greatly appreciated.
Are you a chess player?
Absolutely! Ultimately everybody is a chess player at heart!
I have played in four Olympiads, two World Juniors and two European Juniors apart from a number of international open tournaments. I have a silver medal on board one, obtained in Thessaloniki 1984, and hold the FIDE Master title.
Today, as a result of my travels, I am restricted to playing blitz on ICC and ChessBase, but I love it; this keeps me focused and helps me to retain at least some of my chess form
Web Site: http://www.weReurope.org
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– GM Susan Polgar